Lords consider plan for tougher cannabis laws

The House of Lords will consider Home Office plans to return cannabis to class B status following overwhelming evidence that weakening the law was a disaster.

But despite the weight of evidence, a group of campaigning MPs and drugs advisors have urged Peers to block the move.

The group has written a letter to The Guardian saying the Government is ignoring recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) which favours keeping the weaker policy in place.

The ACMD is the same body that recommended the failed policy of weakening the law on cannabis, adopted by David Blunkett in 2004.

The group is also currently thinking about recommending a weakening of the law on the class A ‘party’ drug, Ecstasy, which killed Leah Betts in 1995.

Since the downgrade of cannabis in 2004 judges, police, parents and mental health experts have called for the move to be reversed because of the damage it has caused.

The availability of skunk – the strongest form of cannabis – has soared since the law was weakened. According to Home Office research, it now accounts for between 70% and 80% of samples seized by police, compared with 15% six years ago.

In April senior police officers called for a return to tougher laws. The Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales argued that cannabis should be returned to class B to “…send out a clear message – especially to the vulnerable and the young – that cannabis is illegal and can be dangerous.”

They said: “The downgrading to Class ‘C’ sent out the wrong message, unintentionally suggesting that cannabis was harmless and legal.”

In May the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced that the Government would return cannabis to its class B status.

She said: “There is a compelling case for us to act now rather than risk the future health of young people.

“Where there is a clear and serious problem, but doubt about the harm that will be caused, we must err on the side of caution and protect the public. I make no apology for that – I am not prepared to ‘wait and see’.”

A study lasting 27 years involving 50,000 people showed that smoking cannabis trebles the risk of a young person developing schizophrenia.

Cannabis-related admissions to mental hospitals have risen by 85% since Labour came to power according to Government figures.

There are now more than 22,000 people a year, almost half under the age of 18, being treated for cannabis addiction. In 1997 the number was 1,600.